Pandit Ravi Shankar : The Sitar Silenced

English: Master of Sitar, Ravi Shankar. Deutsc...

Pandit Ravi Shankar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           DECEMBER 14 , 2012           11.55 P.M.

Pandit Ravi Shankar , the Sitar maestro and the unofficial ambassador of Indian Classical music , died on December 11 , 2012 in San Diego , California , United States of America at the age of 92 .

I am fortunate that I could attend one of his concerts in Allahabad . My Allahabad days are very important for me because they shaped my life and personality immensely . I could meet literary figures like Firaq Gorakhpuri , Sumitra Nandan Pant , Vijay Dev Narayan Sahi and Amrit Rai . I could interact with politicians like Murli Manihar Joshi , who was a professor in the university in those days . I could attend the concerts of various musicians like ; Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad  Alla Rakha Khan and some others .

The year was 1971 / 72 . One evening I was sitting in my room in Sir Ganga Nath Jha Hostel and was studying . My friend Pramod Vajpayee came running and informed me that Pandit Ravi Shankar along with Ustad Allarakha Khan is going to perform in Lakshmi Talkies . Lakshmi Talkies in Katara area of Allahabad was stones throw away from Sir Ganga Nath Jha Hostel . In those days it was our favourite hang out . I don’t know whether it still exists or not . But in those days it was almost a part of our lives .

I refused to believe that a musician of the stature of Pandit Ravi Shankar would be performing live in a small cinema hall like Lakshmi Talkies . But my friend’s excitement forced me to believe that it is really going to happen .

I rushed , almost sprinting , to the talkies along with my friend , bought the ticket and entered into the hall panting for breath and took my seat . I waited with bated breath . After some time hall was reverberating with deafening sound of claps and whistles . Pandit Ravi Shankar along with Ustad Allarakha Khan appeared on stage . He gently took his seat and started playing Sitar . Ustad Allarakha Khan was accompanying him on Tabla .

Ah ! I remember only this much . I am just a connoisseur and not an authority of Indian classical music . So I can’t write about the ragas or other nuances of that concert . But I can still remember the moment when time froze . My body became numb and nothing seemed to exist . There were two magical figures on the stage and the hall was full of etherial sound . I am unable to explain that moment .

I cherished that moment till now . That experience has become a part of my being . On December 11th , when I read about his death , it dawned on me that I won’t be able to see him ever . That fateful evening in Allahabad’s Lakshmi Talkies was my first and now the last occasion when I was so close to the colossus legend .

God ! I can live with pride that I could see the Tansen of my generation performing live in front of my eyes . Pandit Ravi Shankar is gone but my experience of attending his concert will live with me till my last breath .

All the news papers are full of the minutest details of his life . So there are no need to reproduce them . Today I just remembered the early days of Pandit Ravi Shankar . I was telling my acting students how Pandit ji was vehemently criticized by his peers and competitors . A puritan like Ustad Vilayat Khan , a life – long bete noir of Pandit Ravi Shankar , left no stone unturned to decry Pandit ji . According to him , Pandit Ravi Shankar was a fake wannabe Sitar player .Ustad Vilayat Khan’s rivalry turned into open animosity with the passage of time . He refused to accept Padma Shri in 1964 , Padma Bhushan in 1968 and Padma Vibhushan in 2000 because Pandit Ravi Shankar was conferred Padma Bhushan in 1967 , Padma Vibhushan in 1981 and finally Bharat Ratna in 1999 , and according to Ustad Vilayat Khan he would not accept any award that other Sitar players , his juniors and in his opinion less deserving , had been given before him . He even said , ” if there is any award for Sitar in India , I must get it first . ” He also refused Sangeet Natak Akademy Award and even boycotted All India Radio for a while . It is alleged that it all happened because of his jealousy and animosity for Pandit Ravi Shankar . And the end result was that Pandit Ravi Shankar got international fame and ultimately the Bharat Ratna . While Ustad Vilayat Khan had some decrepit awards called ; Bharat Sitar Samrat and Aftab – E – Sitar .

I told acting students of my acting institute , Vidur’s Kreating Charakters , that in the beginning of one’s life’s journey one can be called a fake , a wannabe , a cheat or a person of lesser knowledge by his jealous and less successful competitors . One should not get disheartened or affected . Time settles everything . Time has given a final and decisive verdict in the case of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan . It will and it can happen to any one . Only time can tell . Only time will decide .


I bow my head in reverence and pay my respect to the Tansen of my generation . With the demise of Pandit Ravi Shankar , Sitar will never be the same again . The world of music is orphaned .



Mr. Girish Karnad : Denunciation Continues

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           NOVEMBER 06 , 2012          05.30 P.M.

English: Girish Karnad visited Cornell Univers...

Girish Karnad visited Cornell University in Ithaca New York for screening one of his old movies – Kanakapurandhara on October 29, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today while sitting in the office of  Vidur’s Kreating Charakters , my Acting Institute in Mumbai , I checked my twitter handle as usual . Mr. Kiran KS , whose twitter handle I follow , has posted 12 tweets dedicated to the V. S. Naipaul and Girish Karnad controversy . I was amazed because of the information I got .

These tweets are based on the article of Mr. Pratap Simha in today’s Kannada Prabha , a leading Kannada daily . Mr. Kiran KS has translated the information in English for the sake of non – Kannadigas and tweeted them .

View summary

1) A brilliant article in Kannada Prabha by @mepratap . For the sake of non-Kannadigas, will tweet excerpts now. #Karnad and Naipaul topic.

2) #Karnad calls Naipaul a Muslim virodhi, because of A Wounded Civilization book. The book explains the 5 centuries of invader atrocities.

3) So Mr. #Karnad , what’s wrong in Naipaul telling about the “wound” on a Hindu civilization caused by invaders Ghazni, Ghori, Babur etc?

4) Mr. Girish #Karnad , if Babur cared so much about his birth country Uzbekistan, he could have “developed” that instead of India. Right?

5) In “Thoughts on Pakistan” book, Dr. Ambedkar talks about Muslim mentality,like Naipaul. Will #Karnad oppose Bharat Ratna to Ambedkar too?

6) Naipaul calls Taj Mahal a symbol of invasion. Pooh-pooh’s Romila Thapar’s Hindu Muslim “bhai-bhai” symbol talk. #Karnad , is that wrong?

7) Tell us Mr. #Karnad , fanatic Aurangzeb ordering destruction of Kashi Vishwanath temple in 1699.. was it Hindu-Muslim “bhai-bhai” event?

8) Tell us Jnanapeethi #Karnad, fanatic Aurangzeb ordering Jaziya tax on Hindus… was it Hindu-Muslim “bhai-bhai” event? Why blame Naipaul?

9) #Karnad says Naipaul failed to grasp India as books didn’t cover Indian music. So Karnad, why your books didn’t cover Indian Shilpa-Kala?

10) #Karnad, u criticize Naipaul (not born in India) of not grasping Indian samskriti. But ur book Anju Mallige is about sister-brother sex!

11) Mr. #Karnad ,you got to fame directing SL Bhyrappa’s stories. But once he exposed your Tipu “facts”, you termed SLB books as “ordinary”!

12) When VS Naipaul got nobel, #Karnad termed him the “greatest living literateur of Indian origin”. Now suddenly he’s a Muslim-virodhi??

1st edition (publ. André Deutsch)

1st edition (publ. André Deutsch) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Naipaul’s book ” India : A Wounded Civilization “ is now very much in focus . Mr. Kiran KS has given enough logic in favour of the book and Sir Vidia’s viewpoint . I don’t have any more logic . And I think I don’t have anything new to say about Mr. Girish Karnad and Sir Vidia controversy . I have already posted a blog about it :

Shame On You , Mr. Girish Karnad

I , amazingly , got many responses for my blog . Some were in support and some were harsh . Few were very balanced . It’s wonderful to get connected to so many people having such diverse views .

[ I have re – tweeted from the twitter handle of Mr. Kiran KS . These tweets are based on the article of Mr. Pratap Simha published in a leading Kanada daily Kannada Prabha . I express my gratitude to all of them . ]



Pt. Bhimsen Joshi : Death of A Person , End of An Era


On Monday,  January 24, 2011, when I was reaching Lokmanya Tilak Terminus , Mumbai to catch my train to Varanasi , on the way I read about Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s sad demise  on somebody’s twitter handle. I was shocked.


LIVING WITH A LEGEND: Shrinivas Joshi with his...

Image by Ravi Karandeekar via Flickr- Pt. Bhimsen Joshi with his son

I am fortunate , lucky and blessed that I have attended one of his concerts and could see him and listen him in person.  I remember as if it happened only yesterday. I was new in Mumbai [ then Mumbai was still Bombay ] And there was a buzz about the first Elephanta Festival. I read in news papers that Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Sonal Mansingh would perform live for that festival. In those days of my existence , I had no money even for two proper meals. So buying ticket for the concert was almost impossible. I decided to skip my food for some coming days and bought the ticket. I took the first boat to Elephanta Island [ known in local parlance as Ghara Puri Bet ] and reached there. Since the concert was in the evening and I reached much earlier, I started roaming around. I saw all the caves. I eagerly waited for the evening to descend on the island. But for me , that day , time was moving slowly. Eventually the sun set in the west and the azure sky turned grey and finally black. Night came and slowly darkness engulfed the island completely. I reached the venue and took my seat. I was hungry and tired but I was eagerly waiting for Pandit ji to come. Suddenly a deafening sound of claps and whistles  erupted and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi appeared on the stage. He sat on the dias and started his AALAP. Slowly I started getting mesmerized . His voice gradually reached crescendo and , and I forgot my hunger pangs and cramps and was transported to another world.  It went on for complete two hours and I sat there completely engrossed and enchanted. Programme ended and I took the boat back and reached my place. I had to survive on Vada-Pao for some days but I never regretted my decision and today when he is gone, I consider myself fortunate and blessed that I attended the concert and was able to hear him once in my life.

I am not an expert of Indian Classical Music so I can’t give detailed analysis or critique of his expertise or his mastery over various RAGAS. I am just a lover or connoisseur of Indian Classical Music , so I can simply express my feelings for Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and his ability to get an ordinary lover of music like me , to get hooked to his music permanently.

Later on when I was well enough to buy some cassettes and cds, I bought and listened admiringly. I like and admire vocalists like Dagar Brothers, Pandit Onkar Nath Thakur,  Pandit Kumar Gandharv, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Rajan Mishra & Pandit Sajan Mishra of VARANASI and Pandit Mallikarjun Mansoor. But for me PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI will always be special because I could attend his concert and could listen him personally. He is the only Indian Classical musician, apart from Pandit Ravi Shankar & Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, whose concerts I have attended but they are instrumentalists. So they are in different league.


Bharat Ratna

Image via Wikipedia


PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI came from a humble beginning. He was born in the Kannadiga Brahmin family of GADAG village of DHARWAD district of KARNATAKA. Left his home when he was 11 years old and in search of his GURU went from one place to another. During those formative years, sometimes he had to beg and once he had to become servant also in the house of Bengali actor Pahadi Sanyal for his survival. But when he attained success, he never looked back. Few people know that he had a brief career as a  play back singer also. In 1956 he sang a duet for a Hindi film ” Basant Bahar ” along with Manna Dey. He sang for some Marathi films also. In 1985 he sang Mile Sur Mera Tumhara for Door Darshan and attained mass recognition and adulation. He was awarded Padma Shri in 1972, Padma Bhushan in 1985, Padma Vibhushan in 1999 and finally Bharat Ratna in 2008. Apart from Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan, he is the fourth recipient of the highest national honour among all the eminent members of this music fraternity.

Today PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI is gone but his music will enthrall the connoisseurs of Indian Classical Music for centuries to come.





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